Chances are you’ll see a bunch of folks walking around with schmutz on their foreheads or hands Wednesday, February 25, 2020.
That’s because Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day we Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and renewal leading up to Easter Sunday.
Ashes were used in ancient times to express sorrow for faults. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday making the sign of the cross on congregants' foreheads or hands. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the minister reminds each person to believe the Good News.
Fun fact: Lent is actually longer than 40 days. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but churches don’t count the Sundays as part of Lent.